Children are our future. Investing in children’s development, education and well-being is the smartest thing we can do for our society and our economy. It is a central part of the long-term approach taken by the Social Democrats.

Invest £7 billion extra in children’s education, so that no school loses money per pupil in cash terms.

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The Social Democrats’ second National Conference took place on 26th and 27th January 2018.
Several hundred delegates gathered in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin under the theme Together, Better, Fairer.
Watch Catherine Murphy TD and Róisín Shortall TD give the joint Leaders’ Address below

Our Plan For Children

Ending Child Poverty

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Cutting Childcare Costs

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Quality & Access in Education

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Want to know more? Expand the links below

Ending Child Poverty

One in nine, or about 132,000, of our children grow up in consistent poverty.

This means they live in households with very low incomes and go without basics such as food or heat. Or they face social exclusion.

This is simply unacceptable. Every year we hear this appalling statistic, but very little is done about it – several Government Departments treat it as an afterthought.

Child Poverty deprives thousands of our youngest citizens of the chance to flourish and reach their potential, and it perpetuates class and social division in future generations.

Allowing children fall behind so early in life stores up huge problems for the future, and it costs society dearly in the long run.

Ending consistent child poverty by the early 2020s is readily achievable. Yet, amazingly, it’s still not Government policy. The Social Democrats believe the eradication of child poverty over the next few years should be a major all-of-Government target. We want to see a new national strategy to tackle this problem so that there is a renewed effort on the part of all Government Departments and Agencies to end consistent child poverty once and for all.

Measures we advocate include: 

  • Set official all-of-Government target of ending Consistent Child Poverty by the early 2020s – led by An Taoiseach
  • Replicate targeted area-based investment similar to the YoungBallymun programme in other disadvantaged areas to allow larger numbers of children to benefit from a programme with proven success in improving learning and well-being outcomes
  • Provide free primary education to all children to cover the costs of transport, books and classroom resources
  • Increase funding for TUSLA and recruit additional social workers, childcare workers, social care workers and other front-line staff to deal with the chronic shortage of intervention and prevention services for highly vulnerable children
  • Support the continued roll-out of the Affordable Childcare Scheme
  • Introduce a new Early Years Payment for all parents of young children and support the introduction of paid parental leave and extended unpaid parental leave
  • Reintroduce the full earnings disregard for lone parents
  • Increase the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance
  • Improve funding to the DEIS programme and target the needs of disadvantaged students outside these areas
    • Expand the number of special needs assistants
  • Prioritise housing and start reducing the number of children living in hotel rooms and other emergency accommodation
  • Extend the school meals programme on a priority basis to ensure that all children have access to nutritious food
  • Implement a range of programmes and initiatives of support to parents in the critical 0-3 stage of development, focusing on parental well-being and early infant development
  • Roll-out Sláintecare which will provide for the ramping up of frontline primary care services, including speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and public health nurses
  • Poverty-proof all Budgets and set against the targets of the new Anti-Poverty Strategy.
Children and Childcare

Children and Childcare

The Social Democrats believe that our Government should be playing a much more central role in supporting working parents. We believe that Government should be offering a broad range of options to working parents to support their choices. Our objective is to help bring down the cost of rearing children and to allow parents more time with their children where that is their wish.

Our commitments include:

  • Parental Leave

The Social Democrats have a strong commitment to extending and vastly improving entitlement to Parental Leave in Ireland. Ireland lags far behind most other EU countries in terms of both paid and unpaid parental leave. This is not in the interests of employers, workers or children.

In the current Dáil we brought forward a Bill which would extend parental leave to six months and raise the qualifying age from 8 to 12 years. Based on feedback on this Bill we believe there is huge public demand to extend both paid and unpaid parental leave much further.

We favour the introduction of paid parental leave for six months and would make it shareable between parents. We would like to see unpaid parental leave extended to the European average of around 100 weeks per child and that the qualifying age should be raised to 16. We also recognise that parents of children with disabilities and certain carers have particular demands on their time and require further flexibility and we will provide for this through a new Family Leave Act in consultation with representatives from those sectors.

  • Financial Support for Parents and the Childcare Sector

We would provide a new Early Years payment to cover children from their first birthday to entry to preschool.

We would also improve direct funding to the childcare sector to help improve employment conditions and training and to improve sustainability.

We would significantly improve support under the affordable childcare scheme. Parents would be given the choice of the Early Years payment or assistance under the affordable childcare scheme.

Children in the Digital Age

The digital age brings both opportunities and significant challenges for children and parents. Children are far more exposed to on-line material, social media and computer gaming with many companies seeking to improve their commercial reach by actively and in some cases aggressively targeting children.  The Social Democrats wish to protect children from over-zealous consumerism and marketing, and to provide parents with better information on how to deal with on-line bullying issues, social media concerns, and over-use of computer games.

  • The Social Democrats propose the following:
  • Support the roll out of the new digital rights commission
  • Raising the digital age of consent to 16 to ensure parents retain a right to decide what platforms are appropriate for their kids to access.
  • Prohibiting the use of children’s online data for commercial marketing purposes by banning the practice of ‘profiling’ for under 18-year-olds.
  • The development of new public health guidelines for the maximum length of time children of various ages should spend playing computer games.
  • An examination of how loot boxes and some in-game purchases are targeted at children, a review of the extent to which they constitute gambling and a review on whether or not these should be banned in games with certain age-ratings. We would also set down a requirement for a new warning system on computer games sold over-the-counter to alert parents that the game includes in-game purchases and/or loot boxes.
  • New regulations to prevent over-the-counter sales of computer games to children who are under the age-rating for the game (as in Britain)
  • Anti obesity

No fry zones 400m from schools as long as school is not in town centre area as has happened in Co. Wicklow.

Ban on all vending machines in schools

Increase exercise time in schools

  • Breastfeeding:

Large workplaces to provide room for breastfeeding mothers to pump and small fridge to store milk

Establish the Irish milk bank in the Republic of Ireland

  • In loco parentis

Scrap the in loco parentis rule for children with severe disabilities

Social Democrats Campaigns

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